Swelling after cancer - lymphedema

Why it happens

Many cancer treatments involve lymph node radiation, surgery or removal. This can permanently damage the lymphatic system, slowing or blocking lymph flow. The result is chronic swelling after cancer, called lymphedema.

Where it shows up

Breast cancer

About 20% of breast cancer survivors experience swelling in their arm, hand or chest wall. This swelling can appear weeks, months or even years later.

Groin and pelvic area cancers

Leg and abdominal swelling results from testicular, prostate, ovarian and other cancers in these regions.


Cancer in the white blood cells of the lymphatic system commonly creates swelling in the neck, chest and underarms, but can affect any part of your body.